Thursday, December 12, 2013

Finnish Spoon Cookies

If you want to get rave reviews--and why are you baking fancy cookies if you don't want to wow the audience?--Finnish Spoon Cookies are the easiest path to cookie-baking fame. The secret here is the old-fashioned, melt-in-your-mouth texture which is extremely rare in today's cookie recipe canon, but there's no doubt our tongues have not forgotten the timeless magic. These cookies also require a certain amount of courage at the stove, because I'm always tempted to take the butter off the flame too early. Of course you don't want the butter to burn, but a fairly deep, amber color is ideal for the most flavorful cookie. One word of warning--these do not mail well. I sent a box to my son at college and not a single cookie stayed in one piece. But they're so good, he happily ate the crumbs!

Spoon Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet (December 2005)
(Makes about 30-32 sandwich cookies)

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla (quality matters, I use Tahitian)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded
2/3 cup fruit preserves (I use raspberry, original called for half cherry and half strawberry, Bonne Maman works best)
A deep-bowled teaspoon

Make dough:

--Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.
--Fill large bread bowl (or kitchen sink) with about 2 inches of cold water.  Add a tray of ice cubes.  --Melt butter in a 2-to-3 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until butter turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on the bottom of the pan turn a rich caramel brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Deep brown is okay, but do not let it burn.  (Butter will initially foam, then dissipate.  A thicker foam will appear and cover the surface just before the butter begins to brown; stir more frequently toward end of cooking.)  Place pan in ice water to stop cooking, then cool, stirring frequently, until butter starts to look opaque, about 4 minutes.  Remove pan from sink and stir in sugar and vanilla.
--Add flour mixture all at once and stir until dough forms.  Don’t worry if it’s a bit oily, it will stiffen.  Shape into a ball, wrap with wax paper, and let stand at cool room temperature 1 to 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.  (Do not let sit any longer, especially in a warm room as the baking soda activates too much).

Form and bake cookies:

--Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 325F.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
--Press a piece of dough into bowl of teaspoon, fairly generous amount, flattening top, then slide out and place, flat side down, on an ungreased baking sheet.  (Dough will feel crumbly, but will become cohesive when pressed/make spoonfuls medium full).  Continue forming cookies and arranging on sheet.  Bake until just pale golden, 8 to 15 minutes (for me 13-14 worked best).  Cool cookies on sheet on rack for 5 minutes then transfer to rack with an offset spatula and cool completely, about 30 minutes.  The cookies will be tender until cool, so handle as little as possible.

Assemble cookies:

--While cookies cool, heat preserves in a small saucepan over low heat.  Strain, pressing on solids, and heat again.  Pour back into pan and simmer 5-10 minutes to thicken.  Cool to lukewarm.
--Spread the flat side of a cookie with a thin layer of preserves, about a scant 1/2 teaspoon.  Sandwich with flat side of another cookie.  Let stand until set, about 45 minutes.  Transfer cookies to airtight container and wait 2 days before eating.


--Be courageous with the butter.  It can turn a fairly dark caramel brown and still taste good.  Too light makes a slightly less flavorful cookie.

--You can put about 16-18 on one cookie sheet as they don't spread much.

--Cookies are tender when first baked.  Use an offset spatula to remove to cooling rack and handle as little as possible until cold.

--For a double batch use one full jar of Bonne Maman raspberry preserves; for three batches about 1 1/4 jars works, boil 10 minutes.

--Match similar size and shape cookies in pairs before spreading with jam.

--Cool jam to lukewarm, use an offset spatula to dab jam between cookie sandwiches.

--To avoid unsightly bleeding of jam into sides, a dab in the center and don’t let it spread too far to the edges.

--Dough can be made 12 hours before baking and chilled, covered.  Bring to room temperature to soften slightly before forming cookies, about 30 minutes.

--Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 2 weeks.

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